Traveling to India can be a beautiful, life-changing experience. It can also be a nightmare when things go wrong. From lost passports to a nasty case of Delhi Belly, unwanted surprises can easily ruin your vacation of a lifetime. Armed with these seven tips, some of the worst vacation sabotages can be easily avoided and your trip should be an astounding success.
Pack a first aid kit.
Medical care in India isn’t readily accessible in many parts of the country. Bring first-aid basics like band-aids, pain relievers, antibiotic ointment and mosquito repellent. Public bathrooms aren’t always well-equipped, so always carry your own tissue and sanitizer. The country is teeming with poverty and poor sanitation making conditions ripe for bacteria to set up shop in your system — especially the dreaded Delhi Belly. Visit your doctor ahead of time to stock up on some antibiotics to combat a variety of infections.
Take care with your documents.
Make photocopies of passports and email them to yourself. Before departing, print your airline tickets in hand. Security in India is tight — no one is allowed into an airport without a ticket so those e-tickets, while convenient, should be printed ahead of time. Keep these documents, along with a stash of cash, in a money belt under your clothing.
Unless you will be traveling to a southern beach resort town like Goa, dress codes are fairly conservative. A bare midriff is culturally acceptable, but arms and legs should be moderately covered. The stifling heat makes shorts and tank tops tempting, but drink lots of water and respect the culture you are visiting.
Don’t give money to beggars.
Poverty in India is overwhelming and ignoring people in need goes against core values most of us are raised with. Not only will opening your wallet to a beggar make you a huge target, but it goes against Indian cultural beliefs which generally frown on charity. If this is unacceptable, by all means, donate at your will, but keep in mind you have other options. Hotels and most public monuments have donation boxes for designated charities that support philanthropic programs. These allow you to satisfy your moral values without conflicting with local beliefs and customs.
Keep small bills handy for tipping.
Unlike charity, tipping is widely accepted and expected. A few rupees go a long way considering many Indians earn only a few dollars a day. From bellhops to bathroom attendants, everyone expects a little something for their hard work, even if the job wasn’t that tough.
Bargain, bargain, bargain.
Bargaining is expected almost everywhere. The only steadfast exceptions are government-run handicraft emporiums which offer department store-style shopping for all things Indian.
Don’t feed the monkeys.
Wild monkeys are abundant in India and can be a lot of fun to watch, but they have teeth and claws and aren’t afraid to use them. They live among the hustle and bustle of city life without incident because most people don’t bother them, but they are not domesticated and carry disease. If a monkey wants your banana and you don’t want to share, he will not only steal your banana, but slap you for your insolence. There is nothing like rabies to ruin your trip, so give him your banana! Remember even a monkey hanging out on a busy street corner in downtown Mumbai is still a wild animal.
Follow these tips and your trip to India will be fun, safe and filled with memories to last you and your family a lifetime.